BALTIMORE—A shipment of illegally imported corals intercepted by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has been donated to the National Aquarium, Baltimore. The corals are being used as educational tools in the Aquarium's new Blacktip Reef exhibit as well as for the Aquariums' conservation outreach efforts, school science programs, and fabrication templates.
The shipment, containing 20 pieces of Seriatopora hystrix (or "birds nest coral") and 22 pieces of Pocillopora damicornis, was intercepted by CBP at the port of Tampa, Fla. The corals were cut from the reefs off the coast of the Solomon Islands in the South Pacific.
The shipment entered the port of Tampa for inspection by CBP and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. As a result of the inspection, the shipment was seized by CBP for violation of the Endangered Species Act.
Coral reefs are being threatened by human and environmental factors. Most species of coral are protected under the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species (CITES) and require foreign CITES permits. This international agreement between governments ensures that international trade of wild animals does not threaten their survival. CITES is comprised of 178 country signatories that protect species like coral worldwide.
Corals play a critical role in the ecosystem as they provide nursing habitats for marine species, protect against shoreline erosion and provide local benefits for fishing and tourism industries.
As the nation's border agency, CBP works closely with Fish and Wildlife Service to ensure that laws protecting endangered species are enforced at every U.S. port of entry.
The shipment of ancient corals was seized by CBP last March and donated to the National Aquarium June 25 once the seizure case was forfeited to the government.
National Aquarium is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to inspire conservation of the world's aquatic treasures. It champions environmental initiatives by engaging with visitors, volunteers, education groups and schools to actively participate in the preservation of the world's natural resources and living-systems. National Aquarium, in Washington, D.C. and Baltimore, MD, delivers meaningful experiences through its engaging living collections; science-based education programs and hands-on conservation efforts in the field from the Chesapeake Bay to Costa Rica; and partnerships and alliances with like-minded organizations around the world. For more information on National Aquarium, visit the website.